This is the final part of Joe Sanchez' account of the adoption of his daughter Margaret, his search, and his reunion. The picture is of Joe today.
IS THIS ALL THERE IS?
I left our first meeting thinking that this was the somewhat awkward beginning to what would eventually be a very close friendship. Since then (six months ago), I have not seen Margaret. We continue to exchange e-mails, but hers are mostly about her children’s activities. Talk of a future meeting has always been initiated by either Charlotte or me, but nothing has materialized. On the contrary, a recent e-mail indicated that Margaret and her children would be spending a few days in Orlando, which is about 60 miles from where I live. She does not even hint at the possibility of getting together for a couple of hours.
I can understand that adoptees or birth parents who have experienced difficult and even painful reunions will probably think that I should be thankful for any kind of relationship with Margaret, even if it’s limited to what I have described. My problem is that I have no clue as to how Margaret feels about us. Prior to finding her, I spent a lot of time trying to anticipate how Margaret would react. I did not give much thought to what my reaction would be. Driving home from our reunion, I realized that she had become extremely important and I still don’t know why. If I had children, perhaps I would realize that what I’m feeling is parental love. I do have many close friends and I know that I want at least that kind of relationship with Margaret. I’d like for us to be comfortable enough to pick up the phone and share news, worries, joys, concerns and plain gossip with each other. Her e-mails consist mostly of anecdotes about her children, but nothing that approximates an expression of emotion in her part.
Neither Charlotte nor I think of ourselves as Margaret’s parents. Our parents are the people who raise us and I would never expect a 45-year old woman to think of me as her father just because we share DNA. But isn’t there some place between parenthood and being relegated to the level of an Internet acquaintance?
It would be easier to accept the status quo if I knew why Margaret does not want to go beyond it. But as much as she may physically resemble me (and she does), the woman is an enigma. I have never had trouble relating to people; some of my friendships go all the way back to elementary school. But yet my birth daughter is a mystery to me and to my family. I have three siblings and about a dozen nephews and nieces–all of them were thrilled to hear that I had found Margaret. For fear of overwhelming her, I asked my relatives not to contact Margaret all at once. Only three of them have contacted her; she treats them with the same reserved politeness she uses with me.
Interestingly, Charlotte has been more accepting of the situation than I am. She feels that we’re fortunate that Margaret wants us in her life at all; if our daughter is satisfied with seeing us once a year, so be it. To me, that's not good enough. I don’t know why there should be such a difference in our reactions to Margaret. Is it because I’m the one who tried to find her for so many years? Is it a cultural or personality distinction–as a Latino, I'm more inclined to express my feelings and Charlotte is a WASP who is more reserved and cautious in her relationships. Margaret may look like me, but maybe she has inherited Charlotte’s personality.
Some answers will come if and when I get to know Margaret better. Given my age (66) and the paucity of our contacts, I fear that we may never go past the present.
I just don't know if there is anything I can do to draw her out.